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How Can a Building Be Healthy? with Joanna Frank

How Can a Building Be Healthy? with Joanna Frank

We sit down with Joanna Frank, President and CEO of the Center for Active Design and President and CEO of Active Design Advisors, to discuss how buildings can affect your physical and mental health, how climate change is affecting real estate, and working real estate during a financial crisis.


0:00:00.1 Maricella Herrera: Hi everyone, before I get to the episode, I want to take a moment to address the United States Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe versus Wade on June 24th. Which stripped away the right to have a safe and legal abortion. Restricting access to comprehensive reproductive care, including abortion, threatens the health and independence of all people. Which we have already seen with abortion bans and restrictions in countries like Poland and Malta. This decision has dire consequences and could have harsh repercussions for other landmark decisions within the United States. I encourage our audience, American and otherwise. To learn more about what you can do to help at, I encourage you to speak up, take care, and spread the word.

0:00:45.9 Intro: Welcome to the Ellevate Podcast, conversations with women Changing the Face of business. And now your host, Maricella Herrera.

0:01:02.0 MH: Hi everyone, welcome to the Ellevate Podcast. I'm Maricella Herrera the CEO of Ellevate Network and your host for this podcast. Today I am here with Rebecca Spitzer, who was...

0:01:17.5 Rebecca Spitzer: Hi.

0:01:17.9 MH: My co-host last week and continues this week and it's so exciting.

0:01:22.4 RS: I'm back for more, I'm back, I... You caught me in between like baby soothing, breast pumping, lunch making sessions here. I've been back at work for how many? I've lost track four weeks, three weeks now from leave? So I'm kind of just getting used to this new routine.

0:01:45.1 MH: Wow, has it only been four weeks?

0:01:48.0 RS: I think I honestly... Time is a flat circle. I... Like when I was off, I had no idea what week it was, and now that I'm back, I still have no idea what week it is.

0:02:00.5 MH: We've done so much in the last four weeks.

0:02:04.6 RS: We move fast.

0:02:06.3 MH: Wow, that just blew my mind. I remember when you were on maternity leave, counting the days until you got back.

0:02:14.1 RS: I'll say this and I'll just... In the spirit of honesty I love my children and I love taking care of them. But it is very repetitive, and I too was counting the days at the end there until I be back because it's just the routine. If anyone who is taking care of multiple little kids at a time that routine is grueling and relentless.

0:02:39.5 MH: Yeah, and you have two, so Alex is the little baby.

0:02:42.8 RS: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.

0:02:43.9 MH: And Noah who is three.

0:02:45.9 RS: Three now, Yep.

0:02:47.3 MH: I can't believe he's three.

0:02:48.6 RS: I know, and full of opinions.

0:02:50.8 MH: As he should be.

0:02:55.7 RS: Yep.

0:02:55.7 MH: Well, yeah, we've done a lot... We've done a lot in those last few weeks. Wow, thank God, I'm literally flabbergasted by that.

0:03:06.5 RS: I might be wrong, it might have been more.

0:03:08.1 MH: No, it's like a month. You're right.

0:03:09.9 RS: Yeah. It's been a month.

0:03:10.8 MH: It's been a month. Wow. Well...

0:03:14.3 RS: Definitely a month.

0:03:16.4 MH: In between all the things that we've done, I have been finding time to watch some Netflix shows because what else does one do? Have you seen The Watcher?

0:03:29.7 RS: I have not, no. I don't know if that's really... I'm not really much of a like, scary things person. I watch a lot of like people cooking, very low key, low effort TV over here.

0:03:48.5 MH: Wait, have you been watching The British Bake off? I am a little behind.

0:03:52.2 RS: Yes. Yes.

0:03:52.7 MH: I need to catch up.

0:03:53.8 RS: This season, I don't know. It's like I am still watching it because I love it, but I like, I miss, the early seasons?

0:04:02.4 MH: The early seasons were gold.

0:04:04.7 RS: Yes.

0:04:05.0 MH: They were so good. It's such a feel good show.

0:04:10.2 RS: Yeah, the Mexican week was a little questionable.

0:04:13.8 MH: Oh, I heard that, I heard that about Mexican Week. I actually haven't seen that one. Though, I saw the first two episodes of the season only.

0:04:24.2 RS: 'Cause I was gonna... I feel like they're pushing so hard to try to do things that are different. They're grasping at like... "What could we do? Oh, Mexican." It's like there is so much goodness in the beginning and there's so much history behind British baking.

0:04:43.1 MH: Yeah.

0:04:43.5 RS: That I'm very happy to watch. You don't need to go try to explore things that are kinda outside your wheelhouse because the original seasons are great, like with the history of Bread and all that stuff.

0:04:55.9 MH: And the truth is you watch that show for the people. You get to see the contestants and they're all nice and... In reality you wanna see the recipes and the stuff that they do, but it doesn't need to be like... It's always gonna be different because it's always gonna be different people.

0:05:13.8 RS: Yeah, we don't need to watch them make tacos necessarily. Anyway.

0:05:17.6 MH: What does that have to do with baking?

0:05:20.5 RS: They did make the tortillas.

0:05:22.2 MH: That's not baking.

0:05:24.1 RS: No, it was a stretch.

0:05:27.1 MH: Oh well I'll see if I check out that episode or maybe skip that episode and check out the rest of the season.

0:05:38.1 RS: Yeah, they apparently started in like ponchos, it's like...

0:05:41.4 MH: Oh no.

0:05:42.3 RS: It's a lot. Yeah, it's not great.

0:05:46.4 MH: Well, British Bake Off, why do you do this? So let's talk about something else. What have you been up to this week?

0:05:56.7 RS: I would say, besides for all of my... I could give you some baby recommendations. I've been very into my little bouncer, very into some toys, very into my breast pump, all the good things. But what first came to mind when I was thinking about this is Glennon Doyle's podcast, We Can Do Hard Things, we were just talking about it. It is one of the podcasts where where there's a new episode, I listen to it right away. You know there's some here, you subscribe and then you ignore them but if you're a podcast person, which I assume you are because you're listening to this one.

0:06:32.1 MH: Mm-hmm.

0:06:33.8 RS: She just has great conversations, really great guests. And they talk about a lot of the same kind of transitional things that I'm going through you know like work, like family stuff, work stuff. And so if you're a listener, you'll notice like I really strongly identify with her sister Amanda. And one of the things that is so great is that Glennon, her sister, Amanda and Abby have different personalities and see things from different ways. So there's likely one of them that you'll really identify with, and the other two will give you a totally different perspective.

0:07:11.1 MH: Is it always the three of them with a guest?

0:07:14.2 RS: No. Sometimes it's just the three of them. Sometimes it's just Glennon and Abby. They like mix it up a little bit.

0:07:19.7 MH: I actually haven't listened to it, so I need to.

0:07:23.0 RS: Oh, I could pull you some good episodes. I love the ones, honestly, I love the guest ones. They're great guests too.

0:07:30.1 MH: Sure.

0:07:30.9 RS: But also I love just when they're talking to each other also, because they know each other so well and you get such insight and interesting depth from their conversations. Kind of like, if you've listened to Brene Brown podcast episodes where she has her sisters on.

0:07:47.6 MH: Oh, those are so good.

0:07:49.1 RS: It's a similar vibe because they're just so close to each other. But I'm totally sister, like if you... So don't judge me. You know the reference, don't judge me. We all have issues, but yeah, it's great. It's... I highly, highly recommend it.

0:08:08.3 MH: I have to listen to it. I have to, I follow her on Instagram and I do listen to little snippets that she posts on the podcast, and I do, I've read some of her books and I think she's really great. So, it doesn't make sense why I'm not listening to the podcast. So I'll start.

0:08:30.7 RS: It comes out twice a week, so it can be hard to keep up, I will say but it's great. It's great. I love to listen like while I'm making dinner, if I'm on the train, something like that, it's great.

0:08:43.6 MH: Yeah. This is what just happened with the lack of commute.

0:08:46.3 RS: True.

0:08:46.6 MH: I do listen when I'm running, but when I'm running I tend to listen to funny stuff. 'Cause I just need to get my mind off of the fact that I'm running.

0:08:54.6 RS: Right, yeah.

0:08:57.3 MH: Although right now I'm not supposed to be running because of marathon, but.

0:09:00.8 RS: Yes, recovery is also important.

0:09:04.2 MH: Yeah. It's part of it. It's part of the whole thing. Well, today, speaking of important things, we have, Joanna Frank on the podcast, she is an architect coupled with having a visionary business mind. And she's spearheading health-based real estate initiatives. So I mentioned this last week, what she does really, and what she's working with is how do we make sure that buildings are positively impacting our physical, mental, and emotional health instead of making it worse. And how this impacts people from all walks of lives, from like business executives to industrial warehouse workers, to residents of low-income housing. There's a huge disparity and it's not something we think about often, but it's really eye-opening when you learn about these things. So I hope you enjoy the conversation with Joanna.

0:10:18.0 MH: Welcome everyone here I am today with Joanna Frank. Hi Joanna. How are you doing?

0:10:23.8 Joanna Frank: Good, thank you.

0:10:25.8 MH: Joanna is the president and CEO of the Center for Active Design. I know you're an architect, but you're doing so much more. Would love... We always like to start these podcasts with a little bit of background about yourself, kind of how you got to where you are today basically.

0:10:47.8 JF: Sure, yeah. No, it's not a straight line. It probably never is. Right. So I actually started as a fine arts student. How about that for not a straight line. So I studied...

0:10:57.9 MH: That I did not read.

0:11:00.0 JF: Right? So I actually studied fine arts sculpture a long time ago at this point. And then moved on to study architecture. So I became an architect and then I became a real estate developer when I realized I'd much prefer to be the one directing the architect rather than being told by the developer what they wanted. So I became a real estate developer. I was developing multifamily and mixed use housing here in New York City. And then I joined the Bloomberg administration when Michael Bloomberg was mayor of New York in 2010 after the real estate market crashed in 2008. So we hung on for a while. But yeah, I joined the Bloomberg administration and that's how a real estate developer kind of becomes someone who is running a nonprofit and becomes pretty much obsessed with data.

0:11:51.4 JF: So I ran the Active Design program under Michael Bloomberg, which was taking public health research, working with the public health agency in New York City, translating that public health research for the design and construction agency in New York which in New York, the way it's set up that one agency builds for all the other agencies. So it builds for the streets and public spaces and public buildings and libraries and even has a way to reach out to the affordable housing developers as well. So it is that work that I've continued for the last 10 years we created a nonprofit at the end of the Bloomberg administration to continue that work, the center for active design. And then we created a for-profit last year, a C-corp called Active Design Advisors Inc. Which is a day. And between those two companies, we now run the Fitwel Healthy Building Certification, which is at this point in 40 plus countries.

0:12:55.5 MH: So many things I wanna ask.

0:12:57.1 JF: Yeah.

0:12:58.9 MH: Talk about not a straight line. Yeah. You're absolutely correct. You've been doing different things. It's funny you were talking about real estate development and I... Back in my previous life, I was a real estate banker.

0:13:12.4 JF: Wow, nice.

0:13:13.9 MH: I worked with the real estate developers to give them credits.

0:13:16.2 JF: Nice. Yep. One of my team actually comes from merger and acquisition. She has a background in finance and then went back and did a Master's of Public Health and now works with us. Yeah. Which is also a great combination of skills.

0:13:31.8 MH: Skill. Absolutely.

0:13:32.7 JF: Yeah.

0:13:34.4 MH: And so how... How was it to navigate the 2008 period? I know I'm throwing it back there, but it's interesting you were at the... In that space specifically and then went into public service. So how did it go?

0:13:55.0 JF: Sure. No, I mean, I was very young at the time. We had taken on a huge amount of risk. It was me and my business partner, both women. We were actually the first company real estate company run 100% by women that was, funded by HSBC for a construction loan here in New York, which seems crazy. Right? HSBC Global bank.

0:14:16.9 MH: Yeah.

0:14:18.3 JF: And we were the first all women to...

0:14:20.8 MH: I'm like, I'm baffled, right now.

0:14:23.4 JF: Right? At the time I was like, that can't be true. But apparently it was. So we were young. We were very ambitious. We were not at all risk averse. You know when you take on a real estate construction loan you are taking on that liability personally as well as for the company. They make you do that because they want you to have skin in the game as the expression goes.

0:14:52.5 MH: Yep.

0:14:54.6 JF: And we obviously didn't foresee a global recession happening. So yeah, it was a real learning curve. It was... You know, I love real estate development. I love the whole process. I love the nitty-gritty of the spreadsheets and looking at the numbers and the fact that in a given day you are on a construction site in the morning, and then you are on the phone with bankers, investors.

0:15:17.5 MH: Yeah.

0:15:17.7 JF: Then you're on the phone with your marketing team and the sales team, and I love that. Right. That makes me very happy. But that risk, that risk did not make me happy. When the market crashed, it was terrible. Right. I almost bankrupt my family, not just putting the business in jeopardy. So I think I learned something about myself from that and that was too much, too much risk. And then the Bloomberg administration obviously was a safe harbor for all the really boring things like, I need to pay the mortgage those kind of things. I had a young family who are now grownups, which is crazy. But anyway, so yeah. I mean, it does mean today running a nonprofit and a for-profit, it feels, it is obviously I have much less risk.

0:16:05.9 JF: Right. I don't have personal risk in running either of those companies. And I think that that's interesting for me that you have that perspective that... And we survived. Actually, we didn't go bankrupt in 2008. We were able to hold on, we were able to sell the apartments that we had on the market in 2008. We actually came out whole, we didn't make any money.

0:16:27.3 MH: Wow.

0:16:27.3 JF: But we didn't lose money for our investors or for ourselves. We didn't make a dime. In fact, I'm totally telling stories now. But my partner and I, both women, as I mentioned, we went shopping and we bought a pair of boots each and that was what we made on the deal. That was all...

0:16:47.1 MH: Oh my God.

0:16:47.2 JF: Represented the profit basically, so.

0:16:50.1 MH: There's... I mean, I love that you're telling these stories and our audience really loves hearing these things because, it just demonstrates so much, right? You were two women in a completely male dominated environment, clearly.

0:17:08.5 JF: Yeah.

0:17:11.7 MH: Who put yourselves out there you... Everyone is like, "Take a risk and do your... Go do your own thing," and then you do, and then this horrible situation in the market happens. And you... Like you said, you learned something about yourself, but also, I mean, the resilience of going from what am I gonna do to being able to at least not lose money and get your boots. I hope you still have those somewhere.

0:17:41.2 JF: I have like the third generation that frye cowboy boots and... And I still have, yeah, probably generation number three now at this point but...

0:17:50.0 MH: But still some remembrance of it... It's How did you, like, I kind of wanna ask about your, the resilience part of it. How did you convince yourself of like, you are gonna make it one way or the other?

0:18:10.4 MH: Yeah. I mean, my partner, is still a good friend of mine, which is also I think impressive after you go through that right together she has a much more kind of fatalistic attitude, I think to life. And that everything is for a reason and that we will learn something for this. And it has taken us a very long time, and it's more than 10 years that now we're like, "Oh that's what we learned." This did not happen quickly, folks. Right. It's not, there was a lot of anger and grief, quite frankly about... You know I wanted to be a real estate developer. We were doing it. We had built two buildings, we were about to do our third. And in real estate development, that's the kind of the magic number. That's when you start to have credibility and you know doors start unlocking when it comes to equity and investment and stuff.

0:19:00.0 JF: And we had made good money on the first ones and that's what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a real estate developer. So yeah, there was grief when, when we had to shut the doors going to work for the city was, it sounds good, right? I mean, I can make a great story out of it, but I was not happy working for New York City, which I probably also don't usually admit but, working in a big group bureaucracy the pace that stuff was happening, didn't suit me, I'm pretty fast moving.

0:19:32.1 MH: You were in real estate development. [laughter]

0:19:35.1 JF: Used to having at least a couple of fires every day that you have to put out, so yes. So, it was good for me to see another side of business, and in this case, public sector. It was good to see how decisions are made, it was good to see how politics, really internal politics within a big organization like the city of New York it's a large organization, huge numbers of people again, I learned a lot about myself, I'm not good at playing politics within an office environment, I don't have much patience for that so that's also a learning. [laughter]


0:20:15.6 JF: Yeah, I like being the boss, I guess once I had licked my wounds and recovered a little bit emotionally, we set out again or I set out again with a nonprofit. But I mean, that's very different, you're setting out with a nonprofit, it's a different, it's not personal risk, so...

0:20:31.1 MH: Yes.

0:20:31.3 JF: That's interesting, now we've started the for-profit we have investors, I'm an investor I'm kind of creeping back into that.

0:20:41.0 MH: Yeah, there was that aspect again, a little bit.

0:20:44.1 JF: Yeah, yeah, yeah absolutely.

0:20:45.3 MH: The skin in the game, like you said before.

0:20:47.9 JF: Yes, absolutely.

0:20:49.2 MH: So tell me about the nonprofit. I want to learn about your work, I want to learn about the Fitwel certification, and honestly, you're gonna have to educate me about Healthy Buildings. [laughter]

0:21:05.6 JF: Sure, absolutely.

0:21:06.7 MH: Because I'd never heard that. [laughter]

0:21:08.3 JF: Yeah, absolutely so, what we do, so we do it jointly now between the for-profit and the nonprofit and that doesn't make a difference really to what folks experience or the work that we do within the industry. So we work with the real estate industry, so we work with everybody in the real estate industry, whether it's a institutional investor, so a pension plan or sovereign wealth fund who are investing in portfolios of real estate all the way through to facility managers and folks who are operating the individual assets including all of the owners of real estate, the developers of real estate, etcetera. So we are really looking at the whole real estate industry, and how do we provide the information, the tactics, the strategies for folks to optimize their assets.

0:22:00.0 JF: They don't have to be buildings, they can also be communities so that they are really prioritizing the health and wellness of the people that they are impacting, as opposed to thinking about the physical condition of the building, thinking about it from that human perspective. So, how do I create a building that has been specifically optimized for the people within that building and for the community at large? So, folks may not know this, but every building that you enter and that you live in, and every neighborhood that you spend time in is having a measurable impact on your health. It is impacting your physical health, it is impacting your mental health, and it's also impacting social health, which is the trust that we feel between one another within a social context. So it is impacting your health. The buildings that you are in are impacting your health. It's just that we don't know it typically.

0:22:52.4 JF: So with Fitwel... Fitwel was actually created originally by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention by the CDC. And then we were selected to operate Fitwel five years ago. So there's a huge global evidence base coming out of public health research, we have more than 5,600 peer reviewed academic research studies, behind the Fitwel standard, right? So it's a case of taking that incredible body of knowledge coming out of public health and translating it into practical implementable strategies for folks in the real estate industry, right? Because that research wasn't written for the building industry, it's academic, it's written in academic language. It isn't written for practitioners, it's written for other researchers. It's public health research. So our job from active design on has been how do we translate public health research so that the folks who are making the decisions about how they're operating buildings, how they're designing buildings, how they're investing in buildings, how they're measuring the impact of buildings, how they're assessing risk when it comes to financial risk of buildings, how do we ensure that the human condition, that a human-centric perspective is part of that equation?

0:24:03.9 JF: And that's what we do. So, we have a standard, the Fitwel standard, which as I said, was originally created by the CDC, and we've updated it over the last five years as the evidence base has evolved. So really that standard defines a healthy building. It says, these are the locational attributes of a building that affect health. These are the design attributes, these are the policy attributes or the policies that impact health. So indoor air quality, how you're managing your pests, really similar stuff like that. Water quality and then lastly, amenities. So having a room to do exercise in, how does that affect the occupants health? Having outdoor space, ensuring that outdoor space is well managed. All of these things have a measurable impact on health, and we can tell you what that measurable impact is.

0:24:53.0 MH: Wow.

0:24:53.9 JF: And that's where, that's kind of where the magic happens in that this isn't just a list of things to do. You actually get, it's a weighted list, you get a different number of points for each strategy, which directly correlates to that measurable impact on health. So you can then use that data set to then inform your risk, your investment risk, which is ESG, have you guys talked about ESG in the past? So real estate has to report on their environmental, social and governance metrics. We are providing you those S metrics, really those human-centric social metrics. So that's what Fitwel is doing.

0:25:35.1 MH: So interesting. I mean, I understand the idea of having this very standardized, metric based approach. I think that's incredible, you have companies, like for us, for example, we are a certified B Corp, and we have to report on so many things, and this seems similar, right? Like you're getting that sure certification that you're doing things right. And then I wanted to ask a little bit on the... You said the words human-centric quite a few times, so like focus on humans. And it's a whole trend we're seeing right. In the business world specifically, or I say we are seeing, but I think I'm also on the tear of all companies should be human-centric and people should be treated as people. And so to think about it in...

0:26:26.6 MH: Your physical space. You said that the things that I was thinking like pest control or air quality. What else would you consider? Or could you give me an example of something that's maybe not one of those things, but that is more human-centric or that is affecting the mental health or the social health of people within a building or a community?

0:26:55.7 JF: Sure, so I mean, I would by start by saying it's kind of all of the above, but I'll give some kind of tangible examples. So if we just start with location, so the location of your building, if you just think about building as it meets the sidewalk. Well, A, do you have a sidewalk? If you don't have a sidewalk, the chances of you walking anywhere are zero, basically. And therefore, now you have a built environment which isn't encouraging walking. If you don't walk in your neighborhood, you aren't socially interacting with your neighbors either. And that directly impacts your mental health because you're more socially isolated, it also impacts social health because you aren't building bonds of trust between you and your neighbors because you aren't interacting with them so that's just sidewalks. [laughter]

0:27:39.3 MH: Oh, and then that's all three in one.


0:27:41.9 JF: Yeah, and of course you aren't getting any physical activity on that kind of daily habit, kind of. I'm sure you're driving to the gym or whatever, but you're not getting that kind of daily routine physical activity if you don't have a sidewalk. Now, if you have a sidewalk, how do you optimize that street to entice as many people to walk as much as possible? And then there's all kinds of design elements, which the research shows will increase the likelihood of someone to walk down the street. So the scale of the street is gonna have a big impact on whether people feel like this is a good place to be and we as humans, like a particular scale, it's quite small actually. We like quite small streets with buildings either side, we also like a lot of visual interest.

0:28:32.1 JF: So we get bored really easily. If you just in your mind, think about a really long block with six lanes of traffic next to you and grade parking next to the sidewalk. So yes, there's a sidewalk, but imagine walking down like, "Oh, I have to walk this block." Like there's a feeling you get that, you're like, "I don't wanna do this." [laughter]

0:28:51.3 MH: Yeah.

0:28:51.9 JF: Add like a lot of sun or wind or a lot of cold and you are adding other elements that make it really like inhospitable. You don't want to do that now in your mind, think of, I live in Brooklyn, right? So think of like a street in Brooklyn, if you guys can imagine this, it's a short block, it has continuous housing either side, you can see into everybody's front windows, which is really interesting, there's stoops and there's gardens.

0:29:16.6 JF: But also the other thing that there are, are there are street trees. So street trees greatly increase your likelihood to walk down the street, they provide shade, they provide visual interest and we as humans get a really significant benefit from seeing living things from biophilia. So from seeing trees, etcetera, actually impacts our mental health so those street trees are providing physical shade actually up to a 20 degree cooler under a tree than in an environment that doesn't have trees. So that's pretty pertinent these days, right? Where we're in this new cycle.

0:30:00.4 MH: Yes.

0:30:04.8 JF: There's also obviously a benefit to the air quality if you have enough trees. And then there's that, the kind of the mental health benefit of actually seeing the trees. So that's gonna entice me to walk down the street more. If you have benches that's also shown to increase the likelihood to walk down the street, which maybe sounds counterintuitive. But that's specifically also around like vulnerable populations. So older populations, if you have benches, we see an increase in likelihood to walk down the street. So these are just some of the elements that all of them, there's research behind it and we know that they add to the likelihood of people to walk down the street. So it's scale, the length of the block, the visual interest, the amount of greenery and street furniture, like...

0:30:39.9 MH: Yes.

0:30:41.1 JF: And then the last thing, let's just throw in here 'cause this is the same for all buildings and that's the maintenance.

0:30:52.6 MH: Yes.

0:30:57.2 JF: We really respond to maintenance. So how well maintained a street is or a building is, is actually gonna have a direct correlation to your level of trust. So if I see a lot of garbage, it actually we did some research with, UC Berkeley and found that it was garbage that has the greatest impact on levels of trust within a neighborhood setting. So up to a 10% reduction in trust when there's a lot of garbage as opposed to a well maintained environment.

0:31:17.0 MH: Wow.

0:31:18.9 JF: So trust has been so affected during COVID, right? We are all feeling very anxious, we have a lot of social isolation. You need to be able to trust your neighbors in order for you to walk down the street in the first place. So you can see that if trust starts to deteriorate, then folks get shut in especially older populations and the youngest populations actually. And then that access abates mental health issues. Social isolation is one of the leading causes of preventable death globally, along with smoking and physical inactivity.

0:31:48.8 MH: My God, I've learned so much [laughter] in this, it's fascinating I'm never gonna see my tiny little New York apartment the same way.

0:31:57.1 JF: See?

0:31:57.6 MH: And as you were talking about, like the different streets and how they look and if you would like to walk here that, I've been doing a lot of running 'cause I'm training for the marathon.

0:32:07.4 JF: Nice and it's right past my block, I'll have to wave.

0:32:10.6 MH: Oh, well, I'll be passing there November 6th and I've been actually running from here in the upper West side down to Brooklyn and up Queens and coming back to the upper West side and it really like, you really can tell the different areas where you feel safer or not, and a lot of it is what's around you.

0:32:33.6 JF: Absolutely.

0:32:35.6 MH: And it's incredible.

0:32:37.0 JF: Yeah, so all of that is measurable and quantifiable and affects real estate value.


0:32:44.4 MH: And do developers or you need to comply with some of these? Is it like mandatory?

0:32:52.4 JF: No, no, no, no, none of this is mandatory. So folks are using it. I mean, we've seen a huge increase in use actually because of Covid.

0:33:05.3 MH: Good.

0:33:10.5 JF: Because now there's demand right, before Covid. I think having a healthy building certification, talking about health as a real estate developer was really seen as a nice to have before Covid. When I've done everything else, then I'll think about health, but now it's very much seen as a necessity as table stakes, and there's a risk to not doing it as opposed to an upside to doing it. And in anything finance related, obviously risk gets much more attention than the potential of an increase in return on investment. The potential of a loss of income or a loss of value is much more motivating. So we as health and as part of ESG, the S part of ESG, are now in the risk column. So, that has really changed, everybody's perception of where this sits. It's not mandatory, but if you want investment from those institutional investors, if you wanna hold onto your tenants or if you as a tenant, as a company want to entice your employees back into the space, you need to be considering the health of your occupants or your employees.

0:34:16.6 MH: Interesting, that it was so affected by Covid. I mean, it makes sense.

0:34:20.6 JF: Yeah, absolutely. So we actually did a global survey with the UN and BentallGreenOak, big, big real estate owner, to understand investor sentiment and to see, so this isn't us saying it right. This is investors. So we surveyed investors who represent 5.7 trillion of assets under management, and we asked them what they were thinking about health. And they're the ones who told us that now they're thinking of it, they're seeing it as a risk that it's in the risk column. And that one of them, we interviewed them as well as looking at the data and they said, you can't unsee the last two years, so really there's no going back. We all now understand that health and trust, have an impact on the financial viability of a building.

0:35:10.5 JF: Now, the area that we are really like kind of talking about now around kind of as we see climate change happening is really understanding the human-centric risk from climate change. So real estate up until now has really been looking at the physical risk to their property due to climate change so flooding, but from a physical risk perception, what we're saying and showing and working with the real estate industry on is that actually the risk to your building from the human perspective is way ahead of that physical flooding that the perception of the fact that your building is in a flood risk area is going to actually cause your tenants to leave way ahead of actually physically flooding. And so understanding that it is humans that create the value associated with location for real estate. And if you start to have temperatures that are inhospitable, if you start to have flood risk that kind of goes over that level of tolerant or tolerable risk to tenants, they are going to choose to locate somewhere else. So that's kind of what we're really trying to show the real estate industry that thinking about climate change from the human health perspective is actually essential. We're not just saying it, but it's actually going to make a difference, to their material risk.

0:36:37.9 MH: Oh yeah, well, I mean, it's not about when it floods, you're already thinking about it when you're buying a place or when you're looking where to be.

0:36:48.8 JF: Yeah, and in cities that now have temperatures that are over a hundred degrees for a consistent amount of time or air quality because of fires or because of other issues, this is absolutely going to change the value of those markets because it is us people who are thinking about where do I want to locate my company? Where do I want to live with my family or with myself? And I am factoring those things in because my quality of life and my employee's quality of life is an essential part of the equation. So it is affecting real estate value. And that's our kind of latest way of really responding to this demand with the evidence-based solutions.

0:37:33.0 MH: Stuff that I don't think we think about. So...

0:37:38.2 JF: Yeah. No, I think it's really just we are having a moment, right? We are having a moment where demand individuals are demanding healthy buildings and investors are demanding healthy buildings for different reasons, but the demand is there that wasn't there before Covid. The knowledge was already there before Covid. So I think that that is actually, to me, quite, I'm quite optimistic in that regard because it isn't like, this is the first time folks have considered, "Oh, how do I optimize my buildings or built environment for people?" Right? The knowledge already existed. So, I feel like in that respect it feels like we can actually make a difference, right? We can actually have an impact on real estate, which is where we all live and work, right? I mean, these are the environments that we all live in.

0:38:33.3 MH: Yeah. It's nice that you're not figuring it out now. It was already there.

0:38:36.5 JF: I mean, if you had asked us five years ago, we wouldn't have had that same level of confidence. We would've been like, we know the evidence base is there, but we haven't translated it all yet. So if you could just hold on. [laughter]

0:38:52.9 JF: The other thing that we're seeing, and this is also, I think this is new a bit of research that is also, it's kind of a, "Yeah, of course!" But we didn't have research on it till now, is we've just done a study with one of our big users, QuadReal. And they're actually a Canadian pension plan. So you can kind of see the scale that this is happening at, which shows that the more you do to promote the health of the occupants of your building, whether it's residential or workplace or industrial that it increases, has a direct correlation. So increases as you increase your Fitwel score, your health promoting strategies, there is a direct increase to tenant satisfaction. So, and what was interesting about that research that we did is that the people in the buildings that were surveyed weren't told about any of the strategies that were in place. So people are perceiving the difference. They feel the difference. This feels like a building that is, well, they are scoring it higher that they weren't asked, do you think this is a healthy building?

0:39:55.1 JF: They were asked, is this a building that you would recommend to your peers? Is this a building that you would recommend to stay in? They are tenant satisfaction surveys. So I think that that was... It is what we would've expected, but it's also just great to see it that people don't need to be told this is a healthy building in order for them to feel that this is a healthy building, and...

0:40:14.7 MH: It's validating.

0:40:16.0 JF: Yeah. It's really validating. And also it's good to know that people feel the difference. So, and then obviously if you're not doing it, that's a problem. [chuckle] because it feels a difference. So for our work, it's, that's, yeah, exactly. It's validating. So that's kind of new news that just came out in the last couple of months.

0:40:40.9 MH: Interesting, I seriously am looking around at my apartment and thinking about it, so we'll do a quick lightning round, just answer a sentence or less. We tend to finish these off like that. It's kind of fun. Walkout song. What's the song that gets you excited?

0:41:00.3 JF: Wow. I like Massive Attack.


0:41:05.7 MH: I like massive attack. Favorite holiday.

0:41:12.2 JF: I think, I don't know, being British. I think I like Thanksgiving. I'll adopt one of yours.

0:41:23.0 MH: It's not mine either, but I have adopted it since I've been living here. What's your superpower?

0:41:33.6 JF: Superpower. I don't know which superpower do I have. I like numbers. I think that's a superpower.

0:41:40.4 MH: That is a superpower. A very useful one too. And finally one thought you'd like to leave our audience with.

0:41:52.8 JF: I think it's that the kind of thing, the theme we keep coming back to, and that is that where you live, where you work is affecting your health. If you are in a position to change it, then educate yourself and change that environment. And if you as an individual, demand it of whomever is in a position to change it. So it is affecting your health. This is also an equity issue in that it would be a big difference in the environments that we all live in, directly correlated to income and all of the usual social determinants. So demand better. We know what to do. We know how to do it and demand is what's really changing this market. So I think as individuals, we all have that power.

0:42:38.1 MH: Great. Thank you Joanna.

0:42:42.8 JF: Sure.

0:42:45.1 MH: So we're back. Wasn't that eye-opening?

0:42:53.0 RS: Yeah. We do not think enough about our environments, I think, and the impact of... The things that we take for granted. They just are the way they are. Things that we didn't necessarily make choices about or control in the environment, but those things have such a big impact on your life.

0:43:08.7 MH: Yeah. And Joanna's story also is very interesting. So it was nice to have that balance of listening where she came from and then. Oh wow. She had quite the story of resilience and then now she's doing a lot of work that really matters and like you said, things that we have no control over.

0:43:30.1 RS: That's amazing. Yeah.

0:43:33.3 MH: So if you want to meet some wonderful people, you should join us at one of our round tables. We have them every week. There's one for executives, one for rising leaders, one for entrepreneurs. The whole point here is come and meet people who are in your career stage, who are facing similar challenges. You can be honest, talk about work, get to know others. It honestly makes you feel less alone. That's what I feel when I go to these. And I am every Tuesday at the executive round table. That's Tuesdays at 1:00 PM Eastern. This week we're actually just going to do a networking hour, so it'll be fun. You'll get a chance to meet other people. So hope to see you there. Do you wanna share the rising leaders one?

0:44:19.4 RS: Sure. Yeah. On Thursdays at noon Eastern all the rising leaders meet up, and this week we'll be talking about practicing leadership through gratitude, which is so, so important. I love when we get a chance to talk about how we, whether you manage a team or not, you know how you can lead from where you sit and from where your role and how you can make a difference to the people around you.

0:44:43.6 MH: That's so important because we all believe it or not even if you don't think about it in that way, you are a leader and we all have influence. And I think gratitude, empathy, trustworthiness, all of these are the ones that we need to put front and center right now as we lead. Our entrepreneurs will meet, Thursdays at 4:00 PM Eastern. They're also doing a virtual networking this week. So if you wanna talk to some other business owners join them. You won't regret it. It's really a great group.

0:45:20.2 RS: They are, they're the best.

0:45:22.4 MH: And so today we're gonna celebrate some of our history makers as we do every week. So excited to see more people, more women making strides, making history, really. I mean, that's why we call it the history maker segment. Do you wanna start?

0:45:45.9 RS: Sure. Sahar Al-Rumaih became the first woman appointed deputy governor of the First Bank of Kuwait.

0:45:54.4 MH: Jasmine Harrison became the first woman to swim the entire length of the UK from Land's End to John O'Groats.

0:46:05.2 RS: I'm picturing that. Yeah. Wow. That's cold. That's a cold swim too.

0:46:12.5 MH: Oh, yes. Cold and long. Wow. I'm impressed. Jasmine.

0:46:20.7 RS: Kelbie Kennedy has become FEMA's first national tribal affairs advocate. It's amazing. It's really such an important role.

0:46:28.6 MH: Such an important role. So very happy. That's a thing. Now, Mary H. Van Brunt became the first woman president of Spring Hill College.

0:46:38.8 RS: Mary Catherine Eden became the first woman to climb the Necronomicon a hundred-foot fisher in a 90 degree sandstone roof of Canyon's White Rim area.

0:46:51.5 MH: I can't picture that. That sounds, wow.

0:46:58.2 RS: This sounds silly, but a hundred feet is one of those measures where it's horizontal down the road. It's nothing when it's vertical. A hundred Feet is a lot. When it's vertical.

0:47:09.2 MH: Oh, yeah. Emily Taal, became the first woman at Classic Fire and Life Safety to receive her sprinkler fitter certification. Good job. Classic fire.

0:47:19.8 RS: Go Emily.

0:47:21.5 MH: So, next week, it's honestly one of my favorite. I don't know if I can't play favorites because everyone's so great, but I did fan girl a little in my next conversation. It's Ann Mukherjee. She's the CEO of Pernod Ricard North America. Aka, lots of spirits, Aka absolute vodka and absolute was what I like my shining North Star back when I was studying marketing back in the day. I thought they were so cool. So she's the company's first female, BIPOC CEO, and has worked on a lot of campaigns like Sex Responsibly and others that are campaigns from that are making history because they are campaigns from a spirits company that are addressing issues of consent and the role that irresponsible drinking can play in sexual assaults. So really looking forward for you to listen to this conversation. So see you next week.

0:48:30.9 RS: Bye.

0:48:33.4 Outro: Thanks so much for listening to Ellevate. If you like what you hear, help a girl out, subscribe to the Ellevate Podcast on iTunes. Give us five stars and share your review. Also, don't forget to follow us on Twitter @EllevateNTWK, that's Ellevate Network and become a member. You can learn all about membership and all the great things that Ellevate Network is doing at our website, That's E-L-L-E-V-A-T-E And special thanks to our producer, Catherine Heller, she rocks. And to our voiceover artist, Rachel Griesinger. Thanks so much and join us next week.